Square Enix's booth may have been a bit light on the Japanese side this year, but that didn't stop Yoshinori Kitase and Motomu Toriyama from stopping by to show off Final Fantasy XIII-2.
We were lucky enough to have the chance to speak to them about their upcoming game, with topics such as returning characters, the Crystarium and what Yoichi Wada will think of the game being discussed. Enjoy!
GamingUnion.net: When did you decide to make a sequel for Final Fantasy XIII?
Yoshinori Kitase: When we launched Final Fantasy XIII last March, we went on a world tour in many countries including the States and European countries. We got the feeling that people loved XIII and that it was very popular.
Also, after refining the characters and the universe for XIII, we thought that the kind of materials we had had actually grown too big to be squashed into just one game. The world of XIII had more potential for just one game, so when we launched Final Fantasy XIII last March, we decided to make a sequel.
GamingUnion.net: How many of the old characters will be returning?
Motomu Toriyama: At the moment we've only confirmed that Lighting and Serah are definitely returning. However, the main characters from Final Fantasy XIII will appear in one way or another.
GamingUnion.net: The gameplay in Final Fantasy XIII-2 is very similar to Final Fantasy XIII's. This has never really happened before in Final Fantasy history so why did you decide to do it now?
Yoshinori Kitase: After Final Fantasy XIII was released we received lots of feedback from the users - some of them good, some of them not so good. We took both sides of opinions on board, but some of the positive comments were about the battle system, many users liked it. We just wanted to stick with it for that reason, but offer an upgraded version. Originally it was all about Paradigm Shifts, but we have now enhanced it in Final Fantasy XIII-2 with the fact you can recruit over 150 types of monsters who can fight for you. A typical negative comment we received was about the linearity of the story and progression. We took this very seriously, so with Final Fantasy XIII-2 there are a lot more opportunities for the player to interact with the in-game environment. You can explore the world a bit more and there are options for when you talk to NPCs and other characters.
GamingUnion.net: Does this new monster system mean there will be a limit of two playable characters in your party at any one time?
Yoshinori Kitase: The basic formation will be: two human characters and another slot for a monster. Having said that, it's up to you to choose the appropriate monster. If you know what kind of battle you're going to be involved with, you know what kind of abilities you need to take into it.
GamingUnion.net: Will the Crystarium return? Will there be new paradigms and classes?
Yoshinori Kitase: For Paradigm Shifts, it's going to be carried over. We'll have the same roles, the same shifts and you can shift between different roles which was pretty popular, people really liked it. When it comes to the Crystarium, it's the same sort of thing as in XIII â€“ well, the concept is the same, but a different version. How different? I can't tell you at this stage.
GamingUnion.net: The original story was concepted by Kazushige Nojima, and then written by Daisuke watanabe under the direction of Motomu Toriyama, is it the same team working on Final Fantasy XIII-2?
Motomu Toriyama: It's going to be a different system this time around. After Final Fantasy XIII was released there was a side story (Episode i) released and a professional novelist called mister (Jun) Eishima contributed to the side story, he actually wrote the scenario basically. Nojima is still indirectly involved because he's a writer for Fabula Nova Crystallis which is the mythology that all the Final Fantasy XIII games are based on. In that way he's contributing, but not directly.
It hasn't been released in the West yet, but there is a prologue story called Episode i which will be released on the internet later on before the release of Final Fantasy XIII-2. If you read this story, you will understand a lot more about Final Fantasy XIII-2.
GamingUnion.net: Do you feel the sales of Final Fantasy XIII on Xbox 360 justified its release?
Yoshinori Kitase: It depends. In some countries and some regions Xbox 360 is really popular and in other countries it isn't. As far as we're concerned, both are extremely important and powerful consoles that we have to care about. Our goal is to present this new game to as many people as possible in the world, so we have to respect both platforms.
GamingUnion.net: Other publishers are releasing exclusive content on certain platforms. Is this something we could see for Final Fantasy XIII-2?
Yoshinori Kitase: When it comes to actual DLC we're looking at different possibilities - we're seriously considering it. But if you're talking about different content for different platforms, that's something we aren't that interested in. If we did that, it would instantly mean that there are different versions of Final Fantasy XIII-2 depending on which platform you own and that's not what we want. We want to present the same experience to all of the users. It's unlikely.
GamingUnion.net: A common gripe about FFXIII or any Final Fantasy game in general is the lack of dual language options. Do you plan on perhaps implementing both English and Japanese language tracks for FFXIII-2?
Yoshinori Kitase: Unfortunately, no, that's not really possible because if you want to make two languages possible, it's going to take up a lot of space and it's a very heavy feature to include. We also sync the dialogue with the facial expressions. Since it's localized in English, the movement of the eyes and lips are animated according to that. If it's in Japanese, the movement will be different and we can't really ensure that particular movement sync across two languages.
To be honest, we weren't aware that this was such a popular request. [Laughs]
Of course, we are only talking about voice, when it comes to subtitles, we can make as many languages available as possible.
GamingUnion.net: Recently Square Enix had some bad losses financially and Yoichi Wada stated that internal development hasn't been as good as it should be. What are some of the steps being taken to rectify that?
Yoshinori Kitase: Since the release of Final Fantasy XIII, the development of Final Fantasy XIII-2 hasn't been very long, it's been a short turn-around, about 1 1/2 years or so. We realised that with a shorter turn-around, we will make more profit, so I think this game will be a very key project as far as Mr. Wada is concerned - I think he's going to be very pleased. Not just with the shortness of the development though, but by working more like this, you can accumulate lots more knowhow and try out new technology. I think that will gives us a very good platform to make a good comeback eventually.
GamingUnion.net: Is Type-0 ever going to be released in the West? We've heard nothing about it and it released in Japan in a few months.
Yoshinori Kitase: As you may know very well, with the PSP market, the situation is very different in Japan than outside of Japan. We are having to be very very careful in how we decide what would be the best way to deliver the game to all the gamers. At the moment I can't give you any confirmed decision, so please be patient for a little bit longer.